Carl Hall came back. Creighton is next. Forget the rest about Wichita State’s win over Illinois State on Wednesday. It probably doesn’t mean much and the Shockers seemed satisfied afterward, despite some bad stretches.
WSU won 74-62, surviving a battle in which both teams set standards for ugly. Airballs. Bad passes. Bad dribbling. The Koch Arena crowd set their volume on 10 to boo the referees. Shockers coach Gregg Marshall spent much of the game looking, alternately, mystified, horrified and bemused by the action.
“It was a weird game,” WSU forward Cleanthony Early said. “We played good enough to get the win.”
The Shockers (16-2, 5-1 Missouri Valley Conference) shot the ball well (8 of 18 from three-point range), placed five scorers in double figures and held Illinois State (9-9, 0-6) to a miserable shooting night. Reserves Nick Wiggins and Jake White played key roles and WSU committed 16 turnovers, a manageable number, even if a bit high. It led by 13 in the first half, 14 early in the second half and 19 with under seven minutes to play.
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That gave Marshall enough positives to feel happy about the result, even with No. 12 Creighton coming to Koch Arena on Saturday. WSU also took sole possession of second place in the MVC with Evansville’s loss at Drake.
“We’ll take it,” Marshall said. “We’ll move on.”
WSU will move on with Hall, its senior power forward, on the court. His good health provided the best news of the night. Hall, who missed seven games with a broken right thumb, scored two points and grabbed 10 rebounds. He received a standing ovation when he rose from the bench and took off his warmup. Seconds later, the crowd cheered again when he checked into the game with 16:31 remaining in the half.
“I loved it,” Hall said. “I knew I was going to get that because a lot of people have been telling me they missed me.”
Cleanthony Early led WSU with 16 points, 12 in the second half. Demetric Williams added 14. Jackie Carmichael led the Redbirds with 22 points and nine rebounds.
WSU held Illinois State to 32.8-percent shooting. Despite Carmichael’s efficiency in the lane, the Redbirds never tired of shooting threes. They missed 21 of 27. While they rallied several times in the second half, they couldn’t score enough to pressure the Shockers.
“We couldn’t make enough shots to keep up with them,” Illinois State coach Dan Muller said.
Marshall did take issue with his team’s play late in the game. Against a better team, their decisions might prove fatal. Illinois State isn’t that team.
WSU led 66-51 with 2:50 to play after White’s layup. Illlinois State tore off an 8-0 run to cut the lead to 66-59 with 1:51 to play. During that stretch, White took a 15-foot jumper that Marshall didn’t like. Leading by seven, Early missed a three, early in the shot clock, and Tekele Cotton saved him by grabbing the rebound and scoring to push the lead to nine points with 1:15 to play.
“I’ve got to work on my late-game situations a bit with our shot selection and not being in a rush when we’re up,” Marshall said.
WSU struggled for most of the first half, until Malcolm Armstead got a roll going with his defense. He intercepted a pass and threw to Williams for a layup and a 29-18 lead. Armstead followed by sneaking up on Carmichael for a steal. His layup put WSU up 31-18. He kept it going in the second half, making a three to open and a layup for a 36-22 lead.